An update on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and health impacts in Hawaii

On Thursday the Hawaii Economic Association held a webinar titled “Vaccinating Hawai’i: Update on the COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout and Health Impacts.” This webinar focused both on an overview and update on the state’s vaccine rollout and an on-the-ground perspective from physicians. The panelists also addressed questions on vaccine safety, efficacy and limitations.

The panelists were top stakeholders in the vaccine rollout and pandemic response, they included Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green and Todd Allen, senior vice president and chief quality officer at The Queen’s Health Systems. Also included was Melinda Ashton, executive vice president and chief quality officer of Hawai’i Pacific Health, and Tarquin Collis, chief of the Department of Infectious Diseases and chief of Medical Specialties at Kaiser Permanente.

 

 

Green said the case rate in the state is constantly dropping and credits the people for the improvement. Hawaii has also had 80% fewer cases than other states.

“Our average is 43 cases per day over the last week. We’ve got 635 active cases [as of last Thursday] in the whole state, which is by far the lowest in the country. And fewer people everyday are in the hospital. So this is a reflection of very great sacrifice on people’s parts. But in addition to that sacrifice to get us there, we now have the benefit of the vaccination program.”

He also said that it’s a “feat of science” that three different vaccines are available for COVID-19 within a year. There are over a hundred providers vaccinating people across the state and the state is 7th in the country in terms of getting vaccinations to people.

Sixty to 65% of the people that have received the vaccine have been over 75, Green said.

He also expects a lot of the restrictions on outdoor activities and limits on gathering sizes in the state to start being lifted on May 1. There is also an expectation that by Nov. 1, there will be massive decreases in restrictions.

“I think that things will look virtually normal by November 1st and they will feel quite normal throughout the summer.”

Allen said that on the ground staffing has been a real issue.

“Staffing has really been interesting. Especially when COVID, after a year, has put massive pressures on our systems such that I think we were all understaffed.”

He said that as of Thursday, Queen’s Health Systems had delivered just over 77,000vaccine doses to Hawaiians throughout their five vaccination sites. Their no-show rate for vaccine appointments was only 0.2%.

“There is an amazing pent-up demand [for vaccines], as soon as the Lieutenant Governor announced moving the age range to 70, I know that all three of our systems were inundated with calls and the appointments dried up just like that.”

Ashton said that Hawai’i Pacific Health, as of Thursday, had given just over 81,000 doses. Sixty-one thousand have been given at their Pier 2 vaccine site to essential workers, and 28,000 were given to the 75 and older age group.

“The comment about younger folks at Pier 2 is real, but those are essential workers. We have had a lot of educators come through and some of them are quite young. But they’re very grateful to receive the vaccine as well, and we certainly want to open up our schools and get our kids back to school.”

Collis said that he was surprised with how much vaccine education needed to be done amongst health care workers.

“So we have been doing twice monthly town halls for the nonmedical staff and twice monthly hour-long lectures about COVID for the last year. So I thought that everyone was pretty much up to speed. But we literally had to go department by department answering questions, addressing concerns about vaccinations, dealing with misinformation and it was just incredibly striking.”

He said that they need to consider education and vaccine hesitancy going forward, otherwise the rollout will not be successful.

“I think that we forget [vaccine hesitancy] at our peril going forward. The degree of vaccine hesitancy that’s out there is dropping, we’ve seen that in the polls. But it’s still something that when we open up a new tier, for example, we get a ton of people rushing the phones, but there’s a large number waiting behind who are waiting to see how things go, and I think we really need to be conscious of that group.”